The phrase “sex crimes” covers a wide range of offenses in California. Some involve sexual intercourse while others involve touching. Exposing genitals in public and making or possessing child pornography are other examples of sex crimes. Regardless of the crime, the conviction of any sex offense can have a devastating impact on the life of the accused.
California law creates several variations of the crimes listed above. Penalties may depend upon whether the alleged victim was young, elderly, dependent, or otherwise vulnerable. Some laws enhance penalties depending upon the alleged victim’s occupation or public position.
To help you understand the charges you might be facing, here are some brief explanations of common sex crimes that are charged in Orange County and surrounding California communities.
California law defines rape in different ways. The most common rape accusations involve an act of sexual intercourse under one of the following circumstances:
“Sexual intercourse” means penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or genitalia by the penis. If consent is withdrawn and the withdrawal of consent is communicated, the failure to end the act of intercourse promptly constitutes rape.
Defenses to rape often focus on the credibility of the accuser and on the accuser’s motive for fabricating a story about being raped. In appropriate cases, the accused has a defense if he or she did not know and should not reasonably have known that the alleged victim was asleep, unconscious, intoxicated, or disabled.
A misdemeanor charge of sexual battery requires proof that the accused touched an “intimate part” of another person without that persons’ consent for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal. “Intimate parts” are generally defined as sex organs, buttocks, or female breasts.
A felony charge of sexual battery requires proof that the accused unlawfully restrained another person and, while that person was restrained, either touched an “intimate part” of that person without consent or caused that person to unwillingly touch an “intimate part” of the accused. Restraint can be accomplished through force, threats, or the assertion of authority.
Accidental touching is not a sexual battery. Whether the touching was deliberate or accidental is sometimes the focus of a defense. In other cases, the defense focuses on whether the touching actually occurred, whether consent was given, or (in felony cases) whether the alleged victim was restrained.
The offense of rape can be committed against an adult or a minor. The penalties are more severe when the victim is a minor.
The crime people think of as “statutory rape” is called “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor” in California. Sexual intercourse is “unlawful” when the accused is not married to the minor.
The primary difference between “rape” and “statutory rape” is consent. An adult can consent to have sex. A minor cannot. It is therefore a violation of California law to have sexual intercourse with a minor outside of a marital relationship. The crime can be committed without using force. Even if the minor initiates the sexual intercourse, it is still a crime.
Statutory rape is a misdemeanor if the accused and the alleged victim were no more than three years apart in age. If the alleged victim was more than three years younger than the accused, the crime is a felony. The crime is a more serious felony if the minor had not reached the age of 16 and the accused was at least 21 years old.
A good faith belief that the alleged victim was at least 18 years old can be (and often is) a defense to the charge. If the alleged victim lied about her age and could reasonably be mistaken for an adult, mistake of age might be the best defense to the charge.
Perhaps more than any other crime, innocent people are falsely accused of committing rape and other sex crimes. Alleged victims make false accusations to hide their infidelity from their lovers or because they crave attention. Some false accusations are based on a desire for revenge because they believe the accused treated them rudely. Sometimes alleged victims are persuaded by their friends that they must have been raped. Some false accusations are based on mistaken identity.